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  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 8:24pm
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RUSSIA

Russian court frees one of three jailed Pussy Riot band members

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2012, 12:28pm

A Russian appeal court yesterday ordered the release of one of three members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot sentenced to jail over a protest against President Vladimir Putin.

The court suspended the prison sentence of Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30.

But it ordered Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, to serve two years in a prison camp.

All three were contesting their conviction and imprisonment for hooliganism for performing a song opposing Putin in Moscow's main cathedral in February.

The judge at the Moscow city court ordered the release of Samutsevich - a major surprise.

At the first appeal hearing on October 1 she announced she was changing her lawyer. Her new lawyer argued she had been apprehended before taking part in the "punk prayer".

In emotional scenes, the three hugged before Samutsevich was led out of the glass-paned courtroom cage to freedom.

"Of course, I am glad but I am upset because of the girls, that their sentences have not been changed," a dazed-looking Samutsevich said. She hugged her father and supporters before being led away by her lawyers.

Mark Feigin, one of the defence lawyers, said he was happy for Samutsevich but stressed the legal team was not entirely aware of all the circumstances behind the change in her position.

"If the law does not work in relation to Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, then this is very bad. It looks like we are dealing with some kind of political game."

Calls for their release have been made by world figures from Madonna to Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, while the women have been nominated for the European Parliament's Sakharov prize for freedom of thought.

The women have been held in a Moscow prison since their March arrest and will only be transferred to a prison camp - likely far from the Russian capital - after the confirmation by the Moscow city court.

Earlier, all three had defiantly maintained their innocence, telling the court their cathedral performance of "Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin!" was aimed at the Russian president and not religious believers.

"There is nothing anti-religious in the actions of Pussy Riot, it was political," Tolokonnikova told the court in her remarks.

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